Lord Knight of Weymouth criticises government handling of new data law

Lord Knight of Weymouth

GCHQ base

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LORD Knight of Weymouth has criticised the government for rushing through an emergency data retention law that critics say is a “serious expansion of the British surveillance state.”

Lord Knight, the former South Dorset MP Jim Knight, slammed the government for its handling of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) after the law was rushed through the House of Commons and the House of Lords this week, and called for a public debate on the matter.

The new law is aimed at telephone and internet service providers, outlining their legal obligation to retain communications data on each customer. This data includes when calls were made, what numbers were dialled and other information that can be used in investigations, and can be accessed by the UK's law enforcement agencies, such as the police and GCHQ investigating criminal offences.

DRIP is in response to the ruling of the European Court in April that the previous legislation was in breach of human rights, and the government has said that the bill has not created any new laws and was just replacing the old legislation.

Speaking in the House of Lords on Wednesday, Lord Knight said it was a "disgrace" the way the law was rushed through by the Home Office.

He told the Echo today: “They had three months to work out the European Court ruling but have only given parliament three days to figure something out which is very important to our privacy.

“All of the Lords agreed the government haven't handled it at all well and that they were taking liberties with the judgement.

“There should have been a public debate about it, there is an urgent need for the public to be involved in it and to understand that all of their online data can now be stored and accessed by the government.”

Explaining to MPs the reason behind the law being dealt with so quickly in the House of Commons, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “If we delay we face the appalling prospect that police operations will go dark, that trails will go cold, that terrorist plots will go undetected. If that happens, innocent lives may be lost."

Critics of DRIP have said the new law would impact upon the public's privacy and give the government more powers to snoop on members of the public, and a group of 15 academic experts on technology law sent a letter to the government, saying the new law would be a “serious expansion of Britain's surveillance state.”

Lord Knight said he wasn't against the new ruling, but felt the public should have been consulted.

He said: “There are questions about the balance of security and privacy and whether it is the right balance.

“Part of the bill maintains the status quo and allows the Emergency Services to collect and intercept data from companies that tells them where you are and what you are doing, to allow them to pursue potential terrorists and criminals.

“Maintaining that status quo is fine but I think the public aren't comfortable that they are now able to hold data from all of us.

“I'm not trying to suggest that we shouldn't allow the police and GCHQ to those powers.

“What's more questionable is that the bill allows the government, in law, to be able to get the content of information we give to companies who are based overseas.

“That is essentially everyone who uses the internet.

“Now, that might be the right thing to do but to push it through after three days of parliamentary debate, with no proper debate in public or the media is wrong.

“If the public are happy with the fact that if more of their data is stored in exchange for more security and safety, then that is fine but because it has been rushed through so quickly we do not know how the public feel.”

Comments (2)

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4:32pm Thu 17 Jul 14

cosmick says...

I dont mind the people who fight the terrorist, track down sex offenders, drug pushers ect from looking at what i do i have nothing to hide.
Same as cctv no problem.
I dont mind the people who fight the terrorist, track down sex offenders, drug pushers ect from looking at what i do i have nothing to hide. Same as cctv no problem. cosmick
  • Score: -6

12:11am Fri 18 Jul 14

iansedwell says...

Lord Knight raises valid concerns. In particular, there has been no public debate and one can do little but conclude it was always the government's intention there should be no debate.

The blanket harvesting of data concerning the everyday communications of the citizens of a state is hardly an innocuous activity for a government to undertake. It attempts to justify the activity by citing vague and generalised threats. Yet, as any technically competent person will tell you, if one is serious about communicating away from the gaze of government surveillance, there are ways and means of doing it.

It is also common knowledge that the intelligence community was aware of the 7/7 bombers long before they carried out their attack. The same intelligence community has had many successes without the facility the government's overarching new powers are claimed to offer.

The recent paedophile success was achieved without this sort of system. Just using conventional techniques that have been known since the first days of the Internet. Techniques that are specific, carefully targeted and do not impinge on those who are innocent.

So what are these powers for? The answer is inescapble. To watch you. You. The individual. To know who you talk to, how often, how regularly, for how long, from where, by what means.

This is not about the detection of the terrorist. We are already pretty good at that. One or two will always get through, but overall MI5, et al do a very good job. This is about control of the people. It is Big Brother writ large.
Lord Knight raises valid concerns. In particular, there has been no public debate and one can do little but conclude it was always the government's intention there should be no debate. The blanket harvesting of data concerning the everyday communications of the citizens of a state is hardly an innocuous activity for a government to undertake. It attempts to justify the activity by citing vague and generalised threats. Yet, as any technically competent person will tell you, if one is serious about communicating away from the gaze of government surveillance, there are ways and means of doing it. It is also common knowledge that the intelligence community was aware of the 7/7 bombers long before they carried out their attack. The same intelligence community has had many successes without the facility the government's overarching new powers are claimed to offer. The recent paedophile success was achieved without this sort of system. Just using conventional techniques that have been known since the first days of the Internet. Techniques that are specific, carefully targeted and do not impinge on those who are innocent. So what are these powers for? The answer is inescapble. To watch you. You. The individual. To know who you talk to, how often, how regularly, for how long, from where, by what means. This is not about the detection of the terrorist. We are already pretty good at that. One or two will always get through, but overall MI5, et al do a very good job. This is about control of the people. It is Big Brother writ large. iansedwell
  • Score: 5

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